in that story-studded year, one particularly endures. Having realised the stupidity of a media clampdown in Punjab, the army had now given me permission to go and witness the GCM (general court martial) of alleged Sikh mutineers (following Blue Star), in Jabalpur cantonment.
Nobody put any restrictions, nobody censored anything. It was like any other court hearing, albeit with uniformed officers. One uniformed “mutineer” after another was seated on a chair in front of judges and lawyers. Each, very young, innocent, shaken and contrite, each with the same story. That in his unit far away from home, he heard rumours that all young male Sikhs were being slaughtered, women being mass-raped, gurdwaras desecrated and destroyed, the Golden Temple reduced to rubble. There was no way of checking, no one to believe, nobody trusted Doordarshan or even the newspapers. Actually, most of this was fiction. Even the Golden Temple stood more or less unscathed, barring some stray bullet holes, though the Akal Takht and much else had been destroyed. But it confirmed yet again, if any confirmation was needed, that nothing harms a society and a nation more than a deliberate denial of truthful information to its citizens, particularly in a period of trauma. It leads to a tragic situation where all rumours are seen as true, and the worst rumours the truest. And that leaves an angry, isolated soldier with little option other than to pick up his rifle, march on Delhi and shoot anybody who tried to stop him. I know nothing can justify mutiny in any army, but these hapless boys were not the only ones to blame in 1984.
Best of Express